In my first blog I wrote about my expectations and preparations for the upcoming exchange to the city of Hakodate in Japan.
In this blog I will relate my experiences so far.
As of today, I have been in Japan since September and am now commencing my second week at the Hokkaido University of Education.
I arrived in Tokyo and spent five nights there before I caught the shinkansen up to Hakodate. Checking in with the university was straight forward. After filling out some paperwork I was given a key and shown to the student apartments (only a two-minute walk). The apartment itself is spacious, new and clean. The size of the apartment is one of the many benefits of choosing Hakodate, the accommodation is cheap, the city vibe is relaxed and the air is so fresh. The apartments house up to four students and within a week the other three had turned up, I now share my living space with another Australian and two Korean students.
A week in it was time to attend the orientation days at the university. All the global exchange students are given a run down on the upcoming semester and what to expect from the subjects. There was more paperwork to do and we also had to visit city hall to apply for our national health insurance and residence cards. A staff member from the university comes along to help you through each step of the process and you even get to take the university bus. The staff here are very helpful and make sure to give you all the assistance that you need.
It is now that you get an opportunity to meet all the other global exchange students. There is not many of us, I would say somewhere between 20 to 30 in the whole university so you end up getting to know everyone quickly. There is a mix of Norwegians, Australians, Vietnamese, American, Chinese and Koreans.
The orientation is also when they assign each global exchange student with two tutors. The tutors are local students that are studying to become teachers of the Japanese language so they are keen to help. They can assist with anything you do not understand in your lessons, your homework or even just day to day things that you need help with. I currently meet with both of my tutors once a week to help with my homework and practice my Japanese. There is also one or two that sit in every class and can you help you out as required.
I am impressed by the support that is provided because as I have not actually mentioned until now that I have needed it. Everything is written and spoken in Japanese and my level of Japanese is very low. The first week has been very challenging but I am now getting the hang of what is expected and my confidence in my Japanese skills will get better over the coming semester with the help of my teachers, tutors and fellow classmates.
The classes that I am taking are a combination of language courses (these teach you how to read, write and talk in Japanese) and courses which explore the many unique aspects of Japanese culture. These are specific courses which are set aside for global exchange students but if your level of Japanese is high enough or you are game enough you can join the classes the local students take. I have joined one of them and I would encourage everyone that comes here to do the same. It lets you mix with the Japanese students and experience a new perspective on the way things are taught in the university.
To conclude, it has been a long journey and many applications to finally make it to Japan but now that I am here it has been totally worth it. Hokkaido University of Education is such a supportive environment. From the office staff, the teaching staff and the other students, everyone has made me feel welcome and I greatly look forward to the rest of my time here.
UTS Student ID: 12593556
UTS Degree: Bachelor in Photography and Situated Media
Host University: Hokkaido University of Education, Hakodate Campus
Exchange Country: Japan